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Free «“Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway» Essay Sample

Introduction

Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” is one of the stories included into his collection In our time (1925). Each of the fifteen chapters of the collection consists of one vignette and a story, which is not associated directly with the subject of the vignette. The structure of the book is supplemented by two more vignettes, with one placed before the first chapter, and another after the last chapter. Thus, they play the roles of the prologue and epilogue. But, despite the fact that in this way the author offers his readers to perceive the whole variety of different subjects in this collection as a whole, in this paper the story “Soldier’s Home” is considered as a separate writing. This paper analyses the first Hemingway’s description of lost generation – all young men, who returned from the war and could not find their place in a post-war world.  

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“Soldier’s Home”

The story is preceded by a vignette, in which a person is first portrayed in a very extreme situation - on the battlefield. The contrast of the situation is highlighted by the contrast of behavior of an unnamed character – being afraid of unwanted death he sincerely prays and asks God for salvation, promising to follow faithfully the right path and to preach to others about the only God – Jesus. By the will of God or by chance the soldier remains alive, and all his promises are forgotten. Anyway, the theme of separation from faith, along with the theme of separation of man from the traditionally established opinion of the behavior in a family and in society, is continued in Hemingway’s story “Soldier’s Home.” The story is primarily the story of Krebs, the central character of this work. Character’s parents – who belong to the congregation of the Methodist Church – sent him to the Methodist College.

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The story is divided into three different parts. The first part contains the contrasting paragraphs, immediately introducing the reader to the heart of the event. The second part includes the author’s narration about Krebs’ mental state. It is the narration, the reliability of which is irresistible, for Hemingway allows the reader to look into the mind of the character, see how this mind works. Here the author skillfully uses an internal monologue. The third part is, finally, the action – a depiction of inner rebellion, where the primary means of narration, which gives an objectified picture, is a clever dramatization (of eight pages of the story the last four are almost a continuous dialogue). Thus, the author, who was primarily interested in his character’s attitude to the world, uses a reinforcing logical sequence to depict his image, combining different, but always the most suitable for the occasion elements of reflecting reality. Krebs, who was in the thick of the war, has suffered a psychological trauma, of which his parents and millions of people like them do not even know, not only due to the natural course of events, but also because the official version, as it should be, is too far from the real situation. Krebs instinctively seeks “recovery”, but when he wants to tell, to share his experience—for only this experience has value for him—no one is listening. Therefore, after safe returning home, to the former settled way of life, he is completely alone.

Three times in the story it is mentioned that one of his main occupations after the return was reading on the front porch. This characteristic detail is very important. Nowhere in his prose, Hemingway showed more clearly his hidden position, than in the story of Krebs. This position is life without consequences, emotional retreat from experience and moral denial of responsibility imposed by life. This, from now on, is observation from different porches instead of active participation in street life. What does Krebs see from his porch? “Nothing was changed in the town except that the young girls had grown up.”

 
 
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Here the reader gets a full and comprehensive understanding of the mental state of the character. Krebs parents step in, requiring him to become like everyone else, as if there was no war. However, Krebs cannot return to an unchanged city; the old life has become strange and unnecessary to him. Mrs. Krebs tells her son about temptations and says that she is praying for him all day long. Six lines of mother’s monologue are broken by the line “Krebs looked at the bacon fat hardening on his plate.” Then her speech resumes and Mrs. Krebs proceeds to practical life. Seven new lines of the monologue are concluded by another break: “Krebs said nothing”. His attitude to unchanged ethics and practice of once (before the war) familiar world becomes evident without explanation.

The story contains another replica, which appears to be a detailed analysis compressed by Hemingway into a single synthesized phrase. Exhorting the apostate, Krebs’ mother appeals to him sanctimoniously: “Don’t you love your mother dear boy?” Krebs answers “No”. If he had given the trouble to think about the immediate consequences of his answer, he would have never dared to such frankness. But his condition promotes such lazy thinking and his tongue pronounces reckless and cruel words. And before Krebs could comprehend the situation, he – for his consciousness continues to “unwind” by inertia – he throws the following remark: “I don’t love anybody.” Krebs is the first version of Hemingway’s character, an individualist in the extreme expression of individualism, who was generated by the World War, and who will be appearing in the center of attention of many writers in many, many books for a long time.

Conclusion

Krebs’ riot is a very indicative and typical reaction of intellect and consciousness to the shock of the World War. Saying that he loves no one, Krebs, unwittingly, unequivocally opposes himself, literally, to whole world, in which he finds himself alone, in which he has nothing to do, in which he wants only one thing – to be left alone. All that had represented a particular moral value in his eyes before is now worthless. This is especially emphasized when it concerns, first of all, religion (ethical core) and, secondly, practical life. It was not his fault that he knows nothing but the war. He does not know about life, because he simply had no time to live. All, or almost all of the “lost generation” were the same, and their rebellion, no matter how narrow and individualistic, turned out to be a revolt against social relations in general, which gave rise to war.

   

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